Sunday, June 29, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I want to be an Untouchable!

In his book, 'The World is Flat', Thomas Friedman mentioned about how as the world gets flatter, the only way that one is assured of being employable, and staying that way is to be an 'Untouchable'. No, not the kind that one would see in India's caste system as the lowest of the lowest of caste, but ironically, something similar to that effect. It is a term that he uses for those jobs that requires a certain degree of customised individuality skillsets that one perhaps will never ever, if one can certainly ascertain so, be rendered to the cycle of unemployment that pervades the modern day industrialised countries in this age of outsourcing and globalisation. So perhaps being the neighbourhood baker, hair-stylist or laundrymat owner is not that bad after all, because of the sense of familiarity that these positions breeds, plus the fact that one can't really see the above work being outsourced to others in another country, hence these jobs are really relatively safe, and therefore UNTOUCHABLE!

Which is surprisingly ironic when one compared to the original intent of the term itself, because it does describe the lowest of the lowest caste in India, the ones that would do the job that no other caste or people would do! Maybe, when one look at this concept of 'untouchability' in another context, it is NOT that bad after all. I mean, who would want to be out of job right?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Redesigning Design Education: The 4th University



I read with delight today's Straits Times article on the formation of the 4th publicly-funded university, which among others, would have a greater degree of focus on design! Perhaps it is time, though a little late, that design education have their day in court. Now if only the same can be said of the high-school education here, which have somehow or rather pushed design, and design education, to the purview of the lesser-inclined!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Wonders of Mash-Ups

One of the wonderful features of what Web 2.0 offers is the ability to mash things up, in a nutshell combining various iterations of all the various singular features that are available on the Internet. One of which is Feedly.com. Still in a beta phase, it works wonderfully, so far at least, for something that is free and still in its development release. It would turn your staid-looking Google homepage, if you have Google homepage that is, into a magazine-like look. What this feature does is to extract the various feeds from all the relevant feeds that you might want to have, and then present it to you in a more magazine-like manner. Somehow or rather, this do remind me of the project that I did the other time when I was working in my previous capacity as a Decision Support Analyst, a feature back then that is somewhat like a 'command and control' thingy that would give the user a helicopter view of things that he or she wants to have a view or feel of! Check out the following two photos of the before and after of my own personal homepage, with and without Feely. Can be a little too overwhelming actually, but hey, it's always about choices too right :) :



Saturday, June 21, 2008

Yasmin the StoryTeller

It came as a pleasant surprise to me that Yasmin Ahmad, one of my favourite directors/writers of modern-day Malay films is actually the brains behind some of the most interesting commercials on Malaysian's tv, you know the ones that tugs the heart, especially those shown during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri seasons! Anyway, I personally think that though the time frame for this commercial is short, this is still quite apt and one of Yasmin's better works for a commercial. Though it is also in the other language versions, it does saddens me that the main players of the commercial are from the major race group, and the other non-English and non-Mandarin language versions are just subtitled versions of this! Come on, for S$2million, I think we can afford to do better right! Anyway, enjoy!

Dipity.com: A great way to timeline

I was just amazed at the plethora of Web 2.0 tools that are currently available online, and was indeed wondering whether there is a possibility of using these tools as a 'knowledge multiplier' of sorts for an educator like myself. You know something simple, with no-frills kind of stuff, but at the same time, has an attractive oomph to it. One that I have just discovered recently is from the website Dipity.com. Certainly looks promising, especially for my project-based works! Here's my first timeline that I have created and am embedding.

I LIKE! (free and legal ebooks)

Leander Kahney of Wired.com is giving away his two books, 'Cult of Mac' and 'Cult of iPod', for FREE, yes, you heard it right, legally free. The bittorrent files are linked here and here.





PS: I wish i can cut my hair like the two book covers! That'll be the epitome of COOLness!

My Blog's Readability Index

Just curious about my blog's 'readibility' index and tried the Blog Readability test. Guess its not too bad huh!

blog readability test


Friday, June 20, 2008

Picturing Exceses: Minimalism as a way of LIFE

The following clip by Chris Jordan really does humanity a service (or disservice) by showing a visual representation of Man's own excesses. It's really time to do whatever that is within our powers to stop this excesses, because really, "The Earth has enough for Man's own needs, but NEVER enough for his GREED"...Mahatma Gandhi.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Commoditizing Design

It was wonderful news to me when the local telcom companies reveal that they ARE bringing in the iPhone 3G later this year. Brings relief to me as I was just about to make plans to obtain it on the grey market. But amidst the brouhaha about its impending entry into the already saturated mobile phone market, what i do find interesting is in the fact that the iPhone in itself is a specific product branding that would sell itself. Unlike Nokia, and others, which would rely on an array of product models to sell, what I mean in the title of today's post is on how, design itself is becoming that differentiating factor of a product, and in this case, a specific particular product, that does what it is supposed to do, and mind you, it's not even having the latest technical specifications to boot, for e.g. the iPhone only has a 2 megapixel camera as opposed to the current high-end models of other brands, which can go as high as 5 megapixels! I mean really, when design in itself has become the selling point, who needs overhyped marketing and cutting edge technological specifications?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

52 things you would love to say out loud at work

And now for just a little bit of fun, just got this from my significant other. Enjoy the laughs (Wish i can say this out loud too, especially during management meetings! ;) ):

Things you would love to say out loud at work:

1. I can see your point, but I still think you're full of sh*t.
2. I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.
3. How about never? Is never good for you?
4. I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.
5. I'm really easy to get along with once you people learn to see it my way.
6. Who lit the fuse on your tampon?
7. I'm out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message.
8. I don't work here. I'm a consultant.
9. It sounds like English, but I can't understand a word you're saying.
10. Ahhhh. I see the f ***-up fairy has visited us again.
11. I like you. You remind me of myself when I was young and stupid.
12. You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
13. I have plenty of talent and vision; I just don't give a sh*t.
14. I'm already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
15. I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
16. Thank you. We're all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
17. The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist.
18. Any resemblance between your reality and mine are purely coincidental.
19. What am I? Flypaper for freaks?!
20. I'm not being rude. You're just insignificant.
21. It's a thankless job, but I've got a lot of Karma to burn off.
22. Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
23. And your cry-baby whiny-arsed opinion would be?
24. Do I look like a f****** people person to you?
25. This isn't an office. It's Hell with fluorescent lighting.
26. I started out with nothing and I still have most of it left.
27. Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.
28. If I throw a stick, will you leave?
29. Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
30. Whatever kind of look you were aiming for, you missed.
31. Oh I get it. Like humour, but different.........
32. An office is just a mental institute without the padded walls.
33. Can I swap this job for what's behind door .....1?
34. Too many freaks, not enough circuses.
35. Nice perfume (or aftershave). Must you marinate in it?
36. Chaos, panic, and disorder. My work here is done.
37. How do I set a laser printer to stun?
38. I thought I wanted a career; it turns out I just needed the money.
39. I'll try being nicer if you'll try being more intelligent.
40. Wait a minute - I'm trying to imagine you with a personality.
41. Aren't you a black hole of need.
42. I'd like to help you out, which way did you come in?
43. Did you eat an extra bowl of stupid this morning?
44. Why don't you slip into something more comfortable? Like a coma.
45. If you have something to say raise your hand.......then place it over your mouth.
46. I'm too busy, can I ignore you some other time?
47. Don't let your mind wander, its too small to be let out on its own.
48. Have a nice day, somewhere else.
49. You're not yourself today; I noticed the improvement straight away.
50. You are as pretty as a picture; I'd really like to hang you.
51. Don't believe everything you think.
52. Do you hear that? That's the sound of no-one caring.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Design in Religion: The 'perfect' animal

I was just having a thought or two on how religion has an impact on design, whether be it the design of things, of nature, or whatever else. I remembered an article that I read in the local Malay newspapers on how God has created an almost 'perfect' animal, one that wouldn't seem to be much in its appearance, but if you look at the different functionality of the sum total of all its 'parts' in its design, one would actually be able to see the richness and supreme intelligence of its design on the part of its Creator. Here's the article taken from the theistunited.com website:

Fifty-five degrees Celsius is a baking-hot temperature.Endless sand-dunes stretch away into the distance. There are sand-storms that swallow up everything they come across, and make breathing impossible.

Apart from a few insects, reptiles, and some other tiny animals, no animal can live there.

The camel is the only large creature to survive there.

Allah has created it especially to live in the desert and to serve mankind. In fact, Allah draws attention to the creation of the camel in the verse

"Have they not looked at the camel - how it was created?" (Surat al-Ghashiyah: 17)

When we look at how the camel was created, we see that every detail of it is a miracle of creation.

The most important thing in the burning heat of the desert is to drink, but it is difficult to find water there.

It is also practically impossible to find anything to eat in the endless sand.

That being the case, any animal that can live there has to be able to withstand hunger and thirst. And indeed, the camel has been created resistant to both.

The camel can survive up to eight days in 50-degree temperatures without eating or drinking.

When the camel, which can go without drinking for long periods, does find a source of water it stores it up. Camels can drink up to a third of their body weight of water in ten minutes.

That means up to 130 litres in one go.

The storage area is the camel’s hump. Some 40 kilograms of fat are stored there. Thanks to this, the camel can travel for days in the desert without eating anything.

Most of the food sources in the desert are dry and thorny.

Yet the camel’s digestive system has been created according to these harsh conditions. The animal’s teeth and lips are constructed to enable the animal to eat even sharp thorns with ease. Its stomach, which has a special design of its own, is strong enough to digest almost all plants in the desert.

Desert winds suddenly arise, generally in the wake of sand-storms.The sharp sand suffocates and blinds.

But Allah has created a special protective system in the camel to enable it to withstand these difficult conditions.

The eyelids of the camel protect the animal’s eyes from dust and grains of sand. However, they are also transparent and that enables it to see even with its eyes closed. Its long, thick eyelashes are created so as to prevent dust from getting into the eyes.

There is also a special design in the camel’s nose. When sandstorms blow, it closes its nostrils with special lids.

One of the greatest dangers facing any vehicle travelling in the desert is becoming stuck in the sand.

But no such danger faces the camel, even though it carries loads weighing hundreds of kilograms,. because the camel’s feet are specially created for the desert.

The animal’s wide toes stop it sinking in the sand, and function just like snowshoes. Its long legs keep its body away from the burning heat of the desert floor.

Its body is covered in thick, hard fur. This protects the animal both from the burning rays of the sun, and from the desert chill after the sun sets.

Some parts of its body are covered in thick, protective layers of skin . These thick layers are placed in those regions that will come into contact with the ground when it sits on the scorching sand. This prevents the camel’s skin from burning.

These thick layers of skin are not calluses that develop over time; the camel is born with them. This special design brings out the perfection of creation in the camel.

Let us consider all the features of the camel at which we have been looking: The special systems that enable it to withstand thirst, the humps that enables it to go without eating, its foot structure that stops it sinking into the sand, its transparent eyelids and the eyelashes that protect its eyes from the sand, its nose with its special anti-sandstorm design, the structure of its mouth, lips and teeth which enables it to eat thorns and desert plants, its digestive system that permits it to digest almost anything, the special calluses that protect its skin from the scorching sand, the specially designed fur that protects it from both hot and cold.

None of these can be explained by the logic of the theory of evolution, and these and all its other features reveal one evident truth:

The camel was specially created by Allah to live in the desert and serve the people there.

Wallahu'alam

Creating objects that tell stories

Designer Yves Behar has designed various iconic products, and is currently working on redesigning the laptop for the One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) project. What struck me was the notion that each of his designs does tell a story...of simplicity, of getting back to basics, of finding that inner child in the users. Each design takes in itself a certain role to play, of enriching that human experience, and of making design in itself more humanistic. Take a look at a video of his presentation:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Redesigning Design Education: Squitacles - Can you lend 8 hands?

My last and final post on these 'Redesigning Design Education' series of articles is this one done by my same group of young designers, who also drew their inspiration from nature, specifically octopus. Interestingly, the final shape that they come out with is the same as what they have modelled previously in their initial PlayDoh session. Here are some pictures and a video clip of their presentation.








Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Redesigning Design Education: CrocShelf - Modularity in Design

In this post, I'd like to share another one of my charges' project, entitled CrocShelf. Basically a storage design that draws its inspiration from the Crocodile, its idea of modularity, though nothing really new, is nonetheless refreshing as it goes beyond just mere basic shapes and forms. It actually takes its form from something! Here are some pictures and a video of their presentation.








Monday, June 9, 2008

Design 3.0

So what defines Design 3.0? I don't claim to have the answers, but I guess I can pretty much sum up some of the ideas that I have on what Design 3.0 is all about.

1) Design 3.0 is about USER-CENTRICITY: It's all about the user experience. Moving on from the days when Henry Ford gives the 'choice' that the "...customer can have any colour that he wants as long as it is black", Design 3.0 has been pretty much defined by the user, or what the designer thinks the user would like to experience when he is handling or INTERACTING with the product. Note that it is no longer about just the mere USING of a product, but what kind of experience that the product have to offer to the user or users. This have indeed paved the way to what some economists have termed as the 'Experience Economy', a step higher in the economical hierachy, above the knowledge-driven economy that has been THE pervasive idea propounded in recent times.

2) Design 3.0 is about collaboration: No longer is the design of a product just about a singular state of being of a particular product or process. And no longer is the design just a static state of existence too. Much like what Thomas Friedman have mentioned in his book 'The World is Flat', Design 3.0 can be stated as an amalgamation of ideas that have been shared and thought through globally. Hence no longer is a product just going to be marketed or a process/system only capable of being applied in a singular market, or state of being, but more importantly its ability to handle and diversify itself into other states of being or markets is what would make the design, and eventually the product or system, successful in terms of its profitability and degree of acceptance in its targeted markets.

3) Design 3.0 is about a CRADLE-TO-GRAVE/CRADLE existence: Much like what I have explored in my previous posts on Stokke's children's bed, the intent of design here is also to ensure the sustainability of a product over a period of time, and of ensuring a deeper and more meaningful state of usage, existence and being, from its product inception and initial usage, to its eventual 'demise'. Product or systems are seen to be an evolving one, where it is not only a passive contributor to sustainable design , but more than that, IT IS the epitome of what sustainability is all about. Product and systems are able to be managed more productively, efficiently and 'sustainably', in line wit the GREEN Revolution of sorts that the global society is currently promoting, whilst at the same time, also being able to satisfy much of her end-users' expected experience.

4) Lastly, Design 3.0 is all about Mass-Customisability: Beyond just the oxymoronic idea of mass customisation, the increasing use of relevant biometrics will see the convergence of the use of biometrics and technology into a more customised user-centric product or systems experience. Beyond just the mere current reality of face- and thumbprint-recognition in laptops currently, Design 3.0 will push this cutting biometric technology even deeper into the realms of unknown possibilities, of something similar to the user-specific marketing shown in the Minority Report, or even much much more than my mind can imagine right now. Perhaps your future iPod can play songs that would best suit your mood at a particular point of time, or perhaps your home entertainment centre (aka TV of the future) can play your favourite clips of your late mum on her death anniversary, with all the photos and video clips all edited and done to suit your mood at the moment, whether one of sadness, or one of joy that she has made you a better person.

So are these factors the only ones that can be qualified to perhaps define what the new age Design (aka Design 3.0) is all about. I do think that the list is indeed non-exhaustive, but it is a good start! I would to come back to some of these points later in my future posts, but in the meantime, let me contemplate on how I can make my young charges be ready for these then. :)

What is Good Design?

An interesting manageable short read on what is good design. Here's the link.

Friday, June 6, 2008

To Know is NOT Enough...

"To know is not enough—you must be able to apply knowledge and demonstrate it in context." - Harvard Graduate School of Education, educator and software developer Tom Snyder.

The title of the post pretty much sums up some of the inherent dichotomy of technology and the use of computers in the education arena. On the one hand educators are aware of the need to keep pace with technology in order to make the field of teaching and education in itself that much more current and relevant, but at the same time, one must also be aware that technology in itself CANNOT, and WILL NOT just be that singular force that would transform education into something that would remain relevant in this day and age. At times in those obscure moments of reflection that time can afford me, I do wonder what are the THINGS that I have done differently from my high-school teachers, that I think I can be proud to say that I have pioneered, and that I feel are things that are different, not just for the sake of being different per se, but more importantly is really something that I can be proud of later on as something that I have done differently, and perhaps more effectively. It sometimes sickens me that as things have progressed so much more over the years, the didactic pedagogical methods are still very much pervasive, not that it is bad, but what I do wonder is that when all have been said and done, and when we observe all these changes that are happening all around us, can we say that, as educators, we have also 'progressed' with the times?

I mean, seriously, with the advent of new knowledge in various fields of assessment and pedagogy, isn't there a need for a small revolution of sorts? Should we relook at our assessment methods then! Could we be more precise in our assessment methodologies, perhaps going beyond the usual pen and paper, beyond just grades, and just start to educate, not for grades alone, but more importantly, to be able to prepare our charges for the 'test of LIFE'.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Design 3.0 in Globalization 3.0...part 2

It is interesting and refreshing to see Design in itself as an academic entity rather than just about fulfilling a certain degree of higher-order craving. In an age of consumerism and the age of constant change, of product trends and user-led experiences, it is interesting to note that perhaps Design 0.0 has its origins from the prehistoric times, when Man, battling nature and its very day-to-day existence, have managed to create tools and systems that is perhaps a modern technological marvel in its time. This is the advent of Science, Design and perhaps even Technology, in its most primitive and basic forms.

As Man forges ahead to build his dominance over the other species, it is with great trepidation that he moves inland in the greater land masses to seek a greater amount of wealth and resources that he can use, manipulate, consume and even own. Thus is the start of Design 1.0, which is marked by perhaps the greater need of not any single human entity, but more so by a society, whether big or small, to harness and reap what nature has to offer to them, in their greater desire to fulfill their needs, and perhaps even their greed. Simple machines and processes are the order of the day here, where one can see the emergence of role-substitution in day-to-day activities, especially in areas that are directly affecting the fulfillment of Man's basic needs. Simple machines that perhaps can do the work of a few are used, together with a more optimal use of the limited resources that they have. Simple experimentation and knowledge management, of the most basic kind, can be observed here as Man experimented with the various parameters that are available to them, perhaps Materials, Time, Weather, Water, Fire, Wind and other simpler basic chemical elements.

As the colonies where Man lives becomes even larger, the need to fulfill a greater amount of resource requirements are putting the limited resources that Man has discovered and been making use of, to an ever larger degree of strain. Design 2.0 marked this particular phase, perhaps circa the 19th century, when the Industrial Revolution is starting to pick up steam, either metaphorically or literally! This is the age of the Steam engine, the Light Bulb, the Telephone, the Wright Brothers, and much much more. the age whereby Man has more or less effectively used the knowledge bank that Man has collated over the years to come out with various contraptions and systems in place that would allow for an even greater degree of efficiency in terms of its output, but yet is still bogged down by its energy-gobbling requirements. This is the age where Design is more of a technical domain, where technical prowess is the key to moving ahead, where technical elegance, though oxymoronic, somewhat sums up what Design 2.0 should be!

So what would Design 3.0 be? Let me tell you then in my next post!

Design 3.0 in Globalization 3.0


I'm currently reading Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat" and am a little blown away at some of his ideas and findings so far. It's unnerving at times, as he put forth case after cases of what are the qualifying situations that seems to support his theory. In fact, it's not far fetch to say that this could be very well be a continuation of a book that I read as a text, i.e. "Blown to Bits" by Evans and Wurster while I was taking my Masters programme way back in 2001.

One idea that perhaps catches my attention was in the idea that globalization in itself is actually happening at stages over the years! Beginning from Man's early exploits during the British and Dutch colonial heydays of the 18th and 19th century, the idea was that this quest for land masses beyond the immediate regions, done by nations with the necessary wherewithal, is itself Globalization 1.0

What follows with these conquests in many parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America, are further 'exploitation' by the companies that are headquartered in these countries of origin, where multi-national companies are moving en masse to these resource-rich countries to further improve their profit margins and source out new markets for their various goods and services. This is Globalization 2.0

But interestingly Friedman (I hope he doesn't 'fry' too much, because the translated version of the word 'fry in Malay, i.e. GORENG, is a slang for talking shit! :) ), also brought forth the idea that there IS a third wave of globalization that is currently happening. Instead of nations and corporate organizations, what we are seeing now is the pervasive promulgation of individual content on a global scale, albeit in the online digital world of the NET, in what one would term as 'user-defined content'. Interestingly enough, this has a much more significant impact so far, as it does not only bring forth limitless possibilities in terms of its potential, but surprisingly, the very significant ripples that it creates are not necessarily being decided upon by financial or capitalist interests!

And hence as I was reading it, it comes to my mind, analogically speaking, whether there is such a thing as a Design 3.0, in a context similar to Globalization 3.0. I think there is indeed. Perhaps I should deal with it in my next post then!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Failure as an Option - Part 2

The ubiquitous iPod in all its various iterations are now seen as a standard of sorts in terms of what design is all about. Shapes, Forms, Functions...in fact the overall user-experience, whether it is the joy of listening to a well-made product, the coolness at being the owner of of the hippiest gadget on Earth, or simply being spot-on in your decision to buy one when you are making that decision to change your old multimedia player...I think the branding and cultish nature of iPod is something that perhaps very few products can emulate. But whether Apple in itself has been successful in all her previous endeavours is something that I have found a little surprising, because they have not! This article entitled "Learning from Failure: Apple's Most Notorious Flops" from Wired.com is a case in point.

What I can glean from this article, and all the various articles on 'Successes' and 'Failures' are that:

- Success in itself is not necessarily the sum total of previous successes, but a confluence of factors that would result in a success if well-managed
- There is no such thing as a Bad failures, only a stupid one, if one do not learn from it and avoid repeating the same failures
- There are always Successful Failures, those that results in a situation or a person becoming an even better individual as a result of tasting failure (or defeat)

The trick here then is to see to it that whatever adverse outcomes that shall come our way, it must be seen as one that would lead us to a greater degree of sucess. To end, I'd just like to share a story on "Why Failures Can Be Such Success Stories" here at BusinessWeek.com. Enjoy.

Failure as an Option - Part 1

My initial thoughts about failure is one of disdain, as it implies a certain sense of underachievement on the part of the person. But I guess a paradigm shift of sorts is needed when one looks at failure now. In fact:

FAILURE IS AN OPTION TO ACHIEVE GREATER SUCCESS


Lest the statement above sounds very much like a financial info-mercial that is so pervasive in the media nowadays, rest assured that it is not. Reading numerous articles on other people's life successes have somehow given me an insight that failures are actually necessary prerequisites for one to achieve an even greater degree of successes. Much like the proverbial woman being behind every man's success, I think that failures are the very thing that would give ANY success that much sweetness to taste.

In design education itself, I have embraced the philosophy that the first designs that comes out from my young charges are usually NOT the final design that they are going to be embarking on. Through constant and consistent one-to-one consultations that I have with them, it usually gives me a great amount of joy and satisfaction to see their design maturity developing and growing, to the point that they are able to see things from a practical and realistic point-of-view, definitely the kind of skills that I would want them to be equipped with before they leave their high school education. But at the same time, it is rather disheartening too to see that there is still this misconception amongst them that sees me as the 'Ideas bank', rather than a tool for them to facilitate in their design journeys and thinking skills. In fact, it is sad when they stopped thinking altogether and expect me to be providing them with the answers, when in actuality, design in itself is abundant with alternative solutions and possibilities for most given situations. Perhaps, what we would need is to relook at the way that some things or areas of study are being approached, so that this 'singular-answer mental model' can be de-established and perhaps put in place areas of study that in itself would be subjected to answers that are marked more by their Logicness, Realism and Depth of Reasoning and Thinkability, rather than Correctness alone!